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Tata Nano Standard, in "Dazzling Red"

Tata Nano Luxury, in "Lime Yellow"

A minimalist interior is the order of the day for the Nano, as this dash shot and cutaway shows.
The "People's Car" gets 54mpg, seats five.

While there is no shortage of news from the 2008 Detroit Auto Show, the Auto Expo in New Delhi, India featured a unique new vehicle that might interest North American buyers wary of high gas prices -- and high vehicle prices as well. Tata Motors unveiled its interpretation of the "People's Car" -- a phrase that until now was the exclusive domain of German automobiles -- the $2,500 Nano.

With a length of just over ten feet, the Nano makes current "sub-compact" cars like the Honda Fit and the Toyota Yaris look like a 1980s-era Cadillac from the outside -- but nearly all of the interior space is devoted to the passenger compartment. Tata claims that the vehicle can seat five passengers, but the rear seat would undoubtedly become cramped, as the Nano is only a hair less than five feet wide. A highway trip would be a painful exercise, but Tata is targeting the car as an all-weather replacement for the motorbikes commonly used for family transit, so shorter trips with more passengers might be tolerable.

Power from the Nano comes from a rear-mounted 624cc two-cylinder SOHC engine, which produces approximately 33hp at 5500rpm, and 35lb-ft of torque at 2500rpm. Mated to a four-speed manual transmission and driving the rear wheels only, the Nano is in no rush to reach high speeds -- in fact, the more common 0-60 time was replaced by a "0-43" time of 14 seconds. The time to reach the stated maximum speed of 68mph was not given. This slow acceleration does let the Nano achieve excellent mileage -- estimates are 50mpg city and 60mpg highway. While other cars have exceeded these numbers, they don't share the Nano's low cost of entry.

The Nano will be available in two trim levels, "Standard" and "Luxury." The "Standard" is truly spartan, with vinyl seats, a single-color interior, black plastic bumpers and not much else. The "Luxury" lives up to its name by comparison, offering a list of features such as:

  • Body-colored bumpers
  • Fog lamps
  • Power door locks
  • Power mirrors
  • Air conditioning and heater
  • Dual-color interior
  • Fabric seats   

The sticker price for the Luxury model has not yet been announced. In addition to the two model choices, the Tata Nano microsite offers a range of accessories that can be viewed from the car builder, including pin striping decals, a choice of air scoop for the rear-mounted engine, and alloy wheels.

Despite the Nano's diminutive size, Tata is confident that it will be a safe vehicle, stating that it passes all current safety standards. With over 22,000 employees, a target production run of 250,000 units per year, and recent talks of purchasing Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford, Tata Motors could very well make this pocket-sized commuter car a reality in North America.

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RE: Not really animed at Americans...
By TomZ on 1/10/2008 1:29:29 PM , Rating: 2
There's no chance it can meet US standards and regulations at that price point - impossible.

RE: Not really animed at Americans...
By eye smite on 1/10/2008 1:48:13 PM , Rating: 2
Don't think that it won't if tata is looking at buying jaguar and land rover from ford. They'll get a wealth of knowledge from that. I'd buy one, I'm tired of paying $3 a gallon for gas. Why not have a car that goes 500 miles on one tank.

RE: Not really animed at Americans...
By Chris Peredun on 1/10/2008 1:53:45 PM , Rating: 2
Why not have a car that goes 500 miles on one tank.

With a four-gallon tank, it won't be this one. Perhaps I can interest you in a Honda Civic VX - 57mpg city, 66mpg highway - and a massive-by-comparison 1.5L engine making a "mighty" 102hp?

If you're lucky, you might even find one in good shape for the Nano's $2,500 sticker price.

By crystal clear on 1/10/2008 2:34:41 PM , Rating: 1
Is this a refined version of the famous "Rickshaw" you see in India-you know those 3 wheelers .....

If you happen to be in India take a ride in the rickshaw....
some experience indeed.

By Davelo on 1/10/2008 5:40:27 PM , Rating: 2
I used to have one of those Honda Civic VX cars. Not a bad little dude. The tranny had real tall gears. It was hard to get rolling but once you got the RPMs up it would go like a scalded cat. You could hit 60 mph in 2nd gear!

RE: Not really animed at Americans...
By dubldwn on 1/10/2008 2:14:28 PM , Rating: 1
Many of us wouldn’t buy this vehicle because of our interest in self-respect, appropriate levels of safety, appreciation for ascetics, desire for performance, and the ability to purchase a much more substantial vehicle that gets reasonable gas milage. For city driving I would buy golf cart before I bought this because I would feel better about myself and there’s significant humor value. You have to draw the line somewhere, and the line is far above the Nano.

RE: Not really animed at Americans...
By kkwst2 on 1/10/2008 9:14:11 PM , Rating: 4
"Appreciation of ascetics" and "desire for performance" seem to be mutually exclusive. Perhaps if your vocabulary were larger than your pride, you wouldn't turn your nose. There are many people whose self-worth isn't defined by what they drive that would be interested in a frugal car such as this. You might realize this if you really had an "appreciation of ascetics." :)

(I'm assuming you meant aesthetics.)

By dubldwn on 1/10/2008 9:38:44 PM , Rating: 1
Ha! Nice catch! The irony is killing me! I'm assuming the rest of your post is a joke (like the Nano) and you, like me, wouldn't be caught dead in one of these (pardon the pun)!

RE: Not really animed at Americans...
By TomZ on 1/10/2008 2:22:35 PM , Rating: 3
Don't think that it won't if tata is looking at buying jaguar and land rover from ford.

Meeting US safety standards is not limited by knowledge; it's limited by the cost in this case. US regulations are very expensive to implement - they add a lot of cost to cars today - specifically material costs. And there have been many very smart people working on cutting those costs where possible for many years.

By murphyslabrat on 1/11/2008 4:21:36 PM , Rating: 2
Well, then I hope that they either find a way to do it, or sell them in America as toys or scooters.

I ride a bycicle as my primary transportation, and that does get quite tiring at times. For $2,500 I could get an O.K. used car, certainly one that's better than this one, but this is $2,500 for a new car.

With speed limits (in the USA) of 70MPH on the highway, and 25MPH in residential/40MPH in rural or on main roads, we don't need cars that can top out at 180MPH. Even 120MPH is quite excessive. However, we Americans (gosh isn't that an ethnocentric name) are a very hype-driven people. Even if we never exceed 80MPH, most wouldn't look twice at a car unable to hit 120MPH. Even if the lowered acceleration rates only added 5 minutes to every hour's city-driving, we wouldn't look twice at it.

I don't know much about cars, but I know oodles about PC's; and I see the same trends there. I barely kept my cool with the last customer who insisted that the Radeon 2600 was better than the GeForce 7900, based solely on pipelines(they equated that with stream processors) and dx10 support.

While power is nice to have, it is ridiculous to demand power far in excess of anything you will ever use, especially when that ignorance is driving up entry-level prices for me.

In case you hadn't guessed, I think that this car and the EEE PC (and this new CloudBook) are a great gain for consumers. The only problem is when they start demanding performance levels belonging to higher classes out of these products.

Let's hear it for the consumer!

"Spreading the rumors, it's very easy because the people who write about Apple want that story, and you can claim its credible because you spoke to someone at Apple." -- Investment guru Jim Cramer

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